When two great ex-Evertonian players, Joe Mercer and Howard Kendall, set out into the topsy turvy world of football management, they both managed to drag their respective teams out of the shadows of illustrious neighbours for a short while.
Mercer, in shepherding Malcolm Allison in City’s most successful managerial duo up to modern times, and Kendall in masterminding with assistant and ex-midfield team mate Colin Harvey Everton’s mid-eighties eclipse of Liverpool, saw to it that the blue half of Manchester and Merseyside got their moment in the limelight.
Being the second biggest football story in a sport-mad city is something Manchester City and Everton had had to put up with during various periods of their entwined histories and, in Everton’s case, still have to.
Playing second string to the global megaliths that are Liverpool and Manchester United was the fate that had befallen the two clubs down the years. While City have emerged from United’s shadow to cast their own strong image over their near neighbours, Everton still play second fiddle to their Anfield rivals.
When Mercer, an ex-Everton captain in the 30s and 40s, recruited Allison to help him take City from the doldrums of the second division in 1965, few could imagine what chemistry would be created between the two great men. Going on to win every domestic trophy available plus, to date, City’s only European cup, Mercer cemented his reputation on Moss Side for evermore.
In the 80s it was Kendall’s Everton that tipped the balance of things on Merseyside, winning in fine fashion two league titles, an FA Cup and – like City had done before them – the Cup Winners’ Cup. Whereas City won their trophy in a rainy Vienna in 1970, Everton won theirs in Rotterdam, but against Vienna, Rapid to be precise.
The parallels are everywhere.
Kendall’s barnstorming side, featuring a stylish midfield of Kevin Sheedy, Paul Bracewell, Trevor Steven and Peter Reid, swept everything and everyone before them in winning the 1983-84 and 1985-86 league titles. This story of entwined fate does not end there, of course.
City’s plan to re-emerge as serious challengers in the late 80s would feature the very same Howard Kendall and Peter Reid. Chairman Peter Swales, deciding to take the plunge after pressure from supporters, placed his faith in the manager and hard-working captain of that great Everton side to replicate some of that glory at Maine Road.
Swales, however, made one important error.
Kendall immediately set about forming an ex-Goodison colony in Moss Side. Joined by ex-Everton coach Mick Heaton, Kendall returned time and again to Goodison to revamp a slumbering City side that were bottom of the first division when he took over. Along with Reid, City took in Alan Harper, Gary Megson, Neil Pointon, Mark Ward and Adrian Heath. Ex-Blue Paul Power also returned to the fold from a late and successful career stint at Goodison.
Opinions were divided as to the use of such a policy. A rich transfer seam between the clubs had been launched, as Andy Hinchcliffe, Terry Phelan and Earl Barrett travelled in the opposite direction in the ensuing years. Commerce between the two sides was rife.
A handily placed release clause in his contract allowed Kendall to slip back to Goodison before the job was done, however. His inability to resist the chance to return to his original love, gave Reid the opportunity to stay on as player-manager and City’s fortunes continued to rise. His Everton contingent helped the Blues survive a difficult season in 1989 and launched two consecutive 5th place finishes in 1990 and 1991.
Times waits for no one, however, and things have moved on again since the period when the two clubs were existing in a mirror image of each other. While Everton still cast envious glances towards Anfield and plot a way past their neighbours, City have emerged into the limelight in their own right and stand proudly in the vanguard of English football.
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